Essay on The Tragic Hero Of Sophocles ' Antigone

Essay on The Tragic Hero Of Sophocles ' Antigone

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A tragic hero, in the classic Aristotelian sense, is a virtuous character whose error of judgment leads to their fall from grace. Their demise evokes in the audience a sense of pity for their terrible misfortune, and fear of experiencing the same fate. Both feelings are magnified by the hero’s belated recognition of his mistake. In Sophocles’ Antigone, the audience is immediately drawn to the titular character’s virtue and passion for social justice. It is more difficult to sympathize with Creon, who represents the oppressive factions--the government, the patriarchy, and elder generations--that abuse power. By the end, however, it is evident that Creon is the tragic hero. Creon, whose uncompromising insistence of the law for the preservation of the state leads to the death of his entire family, ultimately elicits more sympathy from the audience. While Antigone’s fate is premature and wholly unnecessary, she died at her own hands while upholding her ideals, and her death is elevated by her heroism, nobility, and godly righteousness; however, Creon’s plight garners more sympathy as his justified, albeit errored, judgement sets the stage for the destruction of his family and the haunting awareness of his mistake.


Antigone’s unwavering resistance and her rebellious suicide lend a righteousness to her death, making her fate less pitiful and fear-evoking. It is clear at the beginning that she is committed to burying Polyneices even with Creon’s decree of the burial as illegal. When her sister Ismene expresses her fear of Creon’s punishment, Antigone resolutely upholds her values: “To me it’s fine to die performing such a deed” she morally claims (22). Though Ismene attempts to change her sister’s mind, citing the horrific deaths of t...


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Antigone and Creon both make convincing arguments for their actions, but it is clear that Sophocles intended for Antigone’s dedication toward family and the gods to supersede her legal transgressions, while Creon is stained with the sins of his stubbornness. Antigone may have found reprieve and glory in death, but Creon is forced to live with the lonely consequences of his misjudgement, a fate made more tragic with the belated realization of his errors. By building Creon to be the more sympathetic character, Sophocles forces the audience to contemplate the multifaceted nature of ethics and legislation. In a tale where the antagonist serves as the tragic hero and the protagonist is unrelatable, the validity of the law and the justification of our actions is scrutinized under the lenses of personal, familial, religious, and political loyalty.

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